Wednesday, January 27, 2010

7476: Watching The Miller-Edwards Debates.

Pepper Miller responded to Jim Edwards’ Pine-Sol counterpoint in professional and polite fashion. MultiCultClassics wanted to chip in an additional two cents.

First, both Miller and Edwards are respected at this blog. Yet it seems Edwards responded to what he considered an overreaction with a bigger overreaction. As an overlord of overreactions, MultiCultClassics feels overqualified to go over it.

As previously noted, Miller never called the Pine-Sol work racist. In fact, she opened by referencing consumer perceptions:

In earlier campaigns, many Black consumers perceived the Pine Sol Lady, portrayed by Diane Amos, a pretty, full-figured woman, as a “mammy-type servant.”

Miller was not spewing an angry, subjective beef. She was merely restating what observers have already noted for years via The New York Times and Adweek.

Edwards’ “revelation” regarding Miller’s alleged conflict of interest is silly. Miller has never hidden her employment background. It’s officially listed in the Blogger Bios. Most visitors to The Big Tent are completely aware of her credentials. The truth is, Miller rarely pans ads; rather, she is usually praising the work and clients she admires, or simply typing about contemporary cultural topics. It’s a safe bet that Miller isn’t forwarding sharp rants to fuel paranoia and ensure she doesn’t “go out of business.” Regular readers of Miller’s posts could possibly conclude she’d be absolutely delighted if the industry evolved to a state where her services might be deemed obsolete.

MultiCultClassics has repeatedly declared that no one can dictate whether or not people think something is racist. So when Edwards dismissed Miller (“Putting that aside, is she correct? No.”), he displayed arrogance and ignorance of the highest order. Sorry.

Particularly ridiculous was Edwards griping, “It is not the job of a detergent company to raise black America’s self-esteem.” Where did Miller hint at that? Granted, Miller might suggest a detergent company is hurting itself by potentially insulting Blacks, but she has yet to lecture any company on an obligation to lift the collective spirit of an entire racial group.

Edwards’ whining about restrictions to advertising is a contrived and tired argument. Plenty of brands have managed to portray minorities in positive ways, including Nike and Allstate (through its use of spokesman Dennis Haysbert). Being edgy and breakthrough does not require insensitivity and offensive imagery. Need proof? Check out the annual winners of nearly every reputable awards show.

Finally, Edwards’ interpretation of the Buick Enclave spot confirms his lack of credibility in this affair. While MultiCultClassics is hardly a fan of Black automotive advertising—and thinks the Buick spot is corny—Edwards appears oblivious to the commercial’s cues. For starters, how often does Madison Avenue present upscale Black men? If Omnicom had produced the spot, the dude would’ve eventually driven to his job as a mailroom attendant. BTW, Mr. Edwards, there is zero bling in the spot. The guy isn’t even wearing a diamond stud earring. And standard White guys have been known to own up to three watches too.

Anyway, this blog continues to respect Edwards and his opinions. However, his odd attack on Miller seemed a little weak and uncalled for. But maybe MultiCultClassics is overreacting.


doug eaves said...

Dear High Jive-san, Good evening from Tokyo. You are not over-reacting to Mr. Edward's comments. I have posted a somewhat lengthy critique of his position from a sociological perspective based on the history of the USA. Mr. Edwards is usually pretty astute in his analyses (when he agrees with my own view, hehehe). But I've notice more than once that he tends to see a 'level-playing field' regarding matters of race in the USA. Whereas my 37 years of experience there suggested a definite tilt in favor of the historical and currently dominant group, that of European Americans (the biggest change I've seen in 40 plus years is that those of Southern European ancestry and Jewish ancestry have assimilated into the so-called WASP network publically, or at least it appears that way by indications of those occupying top positions of corporations and government, and their presence in the Republican Party in signficant numbers; while 3 African Americans, counting President Obama whom I suppose is categorized as a member of that racial group although I'm not sure why except for the color of his skin which has been the American sine qua non for race, have been visible in high profile positions in government, African Americans in the top corporate positions have been few, except for the CEO of Time Warner, if he is still in that position, but once you look at the positions of authority below or laterally to the highly visible positions, I do not believe you will find African Americans, or other racial minority group members, in numbers proportionate to their presence in the USA population; 45 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1965 was passed, the disparity between the percentage of minority group members in the populatation and the percentage of minority group members in top positions should not be as great as it is). After reading your comment and that of Ms. Miller, both with which I agree, I felt that Mr. Edwards would still not be able to get the point of why he misunderstands the race issue. Some of your statements and one in particular that Ms. Miller made succinctly expressed why Mr. Edwards did not understand the matter of race in the USA, but there was no historical background, supporting ideas, or detailed analysis to show him why he doesn't get the point about racism in the USA. I have taken the liberty of writing a comment that I hope will explain to him why he does not understand the offensiveness of his opinion when he misunderstands the presence of racism and its significance in an ad and then promotes that opinion as being 'correct,' while implying that others' opinions that disagree with his are incorrect. This is inexcusable for a journalist who is reporting a story, whether it is read by 50 people or by 50 million, online or in print. If it is part of the opinion/comments section of a newspaper then it is understandable, but the format under which he writes appears closer to what would be 'news' rather than opinion. Of course, I might have an incorrect understanding of his position in the advertising industry section covered by BNet, but it seems like he is responsible for reporting news in that field, not making news in that field. Whatever the intention of his 'reporting' might be, including such an opinionated position with so little support in terms of related facts and conditions, he still holds some responsibility for communicating accurate (fair and balanced?) information when such information can be ascertained from sources. When he is speculating, or ignorantly mouthing off, such comments should be noted as such. After all, he claims to be a journalist/reporter at least indirectly, from the title of being a fellow at a journalism school. At least I assume that's what the purpose of listing that award/title/position.
end part 1

doug eaves said...

part 2
[His especially asinine statement about the status of Ms. Miller's employment, in re should there no longer be racism in advertisements, must be one of the more ignorant and outrageous comments I've read from any news source in recent memory. One could easily turn the tables on him and probably have a factually accurate statement by saying if he didn't promote the neo-racist viewpoint of the post-Bakke generation, he could very well be out of a job, since my guess is that the bulk of his readership will probably agree with him on this matter. I've read some other BNet articles dealing with the issue of race, and the majority of the comments I read are eerily reminiscent of what the majority of the white university students I taught 15 to 20 years ago in Philadelphia used to say about the racial issue in terms of who gets 'advantages' in US society and who doesn't; they ignored evidence that was contrary to what they had picked up from their parents and/or friends and chosen to believe about the racial issue, which was 'the African American student they remember from high school who got the scholarship to 'Elite' University and is now doing very well,' which of course does not represent the experience of the majority of African Americans, or Latino Americans, or Native Americans, or Cambodian Americans, or any other group, except for the offspring of alumni of those elite universities. The majority of those students saw their and their friends' standard of living falling, and ignorantly assumed that the one or two racial minority group members who had succeeded in gaining opportunities that were better than their own as indicative of that favorite bete noire of reactionary conservatives, affirmative action, that mutated into an ill-conceived analog that became known as 'reverse discrimination' and was the dominant view held by those middle-income white students whose futures did not look so bright then, and chances are they don't look so rosy now either. Too bad. They were idiots then and they are idiots now if they can't understand that an African American getting a scholarship to Yale is not the reason their standard of living is falling. I had very little sympathy for them then, and even less now. Of course, I'm a professional and did not belittle them for such preposterous ideas, nor did I inject my personal opinion into discussions that were held in class: I merely acted my role as devil's advocate when necessary and asked questions for which they had no answers, thus allowing myself a chance to provide some social statistics and historical background of race in the USA, I grew up around willful ignorance based on racial prejudices and it caused nothing positive and plenty negative for all those concerned, especially my African American friends in the South; I thought living outside of the South, things would be different in other parts of the country, they weren't in 1985 in Seattle nor 1995 in Philadelphia; I left the usa a couple of years later when it became obvious to me that the Republican Congress was not going to be a 2-year anomaly like the '47-'48 Congress had been during the Truman administration].
end part 2

doug eaves said...

part 3
Very few European Americans will admit the fact that the USA continues to have a racist culture, although the empirical evidence supporting this fact is overwhelming. I offer a comparative example between the 3 countries with the largest prison populations to support my assertion. It is indirect evidence of course and subject to criticism, but it provides a nice elegant snapshot of how different the USA is when compared with China and India. While I do not brand Mr. Edwards a racist, I do strongly assert that his analysis is flawed because of his ignorance of the 400 year history of African Americans in the USA. I have credited him for including a link to your blog, but I don't know if he is responsible for that or not. And as you have mentioned and Ms. Miller mentioned, Mr. Edwards does seem to be a reasonable man and not inclined toward publishing incendiary statements reflecting a revanchist Confederate mentality about race. However, I do believe he writes for a readership that is essentially similar to himself: European American males in their 30s and 40s whose formative years occurred in or after the (non)decision by the Supreme Court in the Bakke vs. California case and reagan's 'welfare queen' comment, rather one whose formative years were shaped by seeing George Wallace provide the example for the Republican Party's 'Southern Strategy,' the consequences of Dr. King's assassination, and the undeserved condemnation of medal-winning American athletes in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City). I believe his assumptions about race and racism in the USA are ahistorical and suffer from reactionary prejudices, or are just simply misinformed at best. Your statement, about the flawed reasoning Mr. Edwards displays when he assumes that his views on what is racist in the USA could qualify as a universal perception, is credited for the initial insight that led me to commit a few words to this topic. If didn't credit you for that insight in the comment on BNet, then I will do that now. Thank you for suggesting that Mr. Edwards does not know what an African American perceives as racist, or not, and it is not within his scope of reasoning or experience to assert that he might be able to do so, whether explicitly or implicitly.
end part 3

doug eaves said...

part 4
My own assessment about the status of racial relations at the present time is essentially guesswork because I haven't lived in the USA for 13 years. I was born in Memphis and grew up about an hour away in Arkansas. I lived in Seattle for 5 years, and I lived in Philadelphia for 7 years. I do not like the USA and have no plans to return on a permanent basis during this lifetime. Thirty-seven (37) years was enough. My own ancestry is Irish and Italian, but in junior high school there was a friend of mine who looked my twin and he was African American. I was a bit darker than him though.

My knowledge of Americans on a personal basis has been none since I moved to Japan. There are other Americans at my workplace, but I am the only senior administrator who is an American, so that places me outside of the their stratum in the organization. They are all European Americans. The owner of the organization has strong prejudices against African Americans, at least in regard to occupational matters. When I bring up the many positive contributions African Americans have made to US history, culture and society, he tells me the story when he was on a trip to the US around 40 years ago and left his wallet in a taxi. The driver was an African American man. An hour after he had returned to his hotel, the taxi driver brought him his wallet, and all the money was still in it. He still tells this story with a bit of amazement. He can freely discriminate against employees here in Japan, since there are no laws against doing so. He's faced a lifetime of discrimination himself, since he is an ethnic Korean. Although he was born in Japan and lived here all of his life, he is still not a Japanese citizen, so although he pays hefty taxes when forced to, he has no right to vote in national elections, and he could never have hoped to have been employed by a large Japanese corporation, the goal of any ambitious young man here. Age discrimination is legal here as well. Gender discrimination is not legal, but it is widely practiced, and in many situations openly, since state enforcement will only occur after a plaintiff has won a case in court. I do not understand this country and I don't particularly like it, although I prefer it to the USA. I plan to move to India in the near future where caste, religion, and gender are the variables that determine a person's status in society. It should be very interesting. At least they are open about it. The same can't be said for the USA or Japan and their discriminatory practices. In Japan, nothing is 'open' anyway, so it's at least more consistent than the USA.
end part 4

doug eaves said...

part 5
One last point, I should make. I do not presume to speak for African Americans, nor do I assume I know what it is like to be black in America. My closing point in the comment about being 'mistaken' for an African American at times is true. The statement of 'the advantages of being an African American, at least on a personal level' is not meant to insinuate any particular advantages, but simply offered as recognition of a counterpoint from the societal perspective I employ in my comment about race and racism in the USA. If this point strikes you as racist on my part, I deeply apologize for that. It was not meant to imply any of the stereotypical advantages gratuitously associated with African American men. The idea that some could interpret that statement as such occurred to me after I had posted the comment. My mind is not so quick these days, and it never worked very fast when i was younger anyway.

As mentioned, I haven't lived in the USA for 13 years, nor have I known any Americans during that period, and for the past 3 years my only knowledge of the USA is what I get from the Internet. I don't watch teevee or movies, nor do I listen to contemporary American music, Newspapers or magazines from the USA hold no interest for me since they have nothing to offer that I can't get from the Internet if I need it. So, I hope you can forgive me if my own ignorance due to a lack of recent experience has left me insensitive to what is, or isn't, racist these days. The social construction of racism is not static, nor is a culture although its changes occur much more slowly than the social structure through which it provides the basis for understanding shared meanings of social phenomena, while it is also slowly being re-created inter-generationally and undergoing slight modifications in the process. At least that's the only way I can explain the election of an African American president, fact that there are African Americans in highly visible positions in various segments of US society, and the African American middle class is different compared to when I was a kid 40 plus years ago. At the same time the culture of racism in the USA seems to be alive and well. So, I was quite hesitant to offer a comment regarding Mr. Edwards article but after reading the comments from you and Ms. Miller, I realized that he wouldn't understand the historical legacy that informs the comments from you and her (this is another bold assumption on my part).
end part 5

doug eaves said...

part 6
But I'm used to being wrong and offending people, so I'll continue anyway, and add another point or two. Ms. Miller and you have both validated his argument by repudiating his points. The fact that he can get an African American woman and you (I have no idea what your race, age, or gender might be, and it doesn't matter to me, anyway) to challenge his views on his terms, i.e., simply considering the Pine Sol ad and a few other contemporary ads with some relevance for the issue of race by treating those ads as if they were created within a culture that is racially neutral and has no history (because that's what his analysis does; I believe the jargon for his type of analysis is deracination, in the abstract meaning of the word, but it is wholly appropriate, since he jerks the ad from the context in which it has been created to look at it as if it were an exhibit at a flower show; I'm aware that my comments are 'too long' according to replies, and that this diminishes the chance that people will read what I write; this reasoning assumes that I am writing for others to read which is not my motivation, since I write for my own pleasure, if someone reads it, fine, if not, then I don't have to write another long and tortured message about my usual topic of the ignorance of Americans and their lack of mental depth; yes, I know that's a gross generalization, and it's not true for those whom I trade replies regarding videos by the Rolling Stones, but that has been my experience with BNet readers; I do not know why people who watch videos of the Rolling Stones would, on the whole, have sharper minds and be more inclined to write at length about issues that have virtually no social importance compared to those who write on BNet about very important social issues, but don't have the time to fully discuss them; these are different groups of people but I don't know the psychology of members of either group, since psychology is not my field, sociology is; and this has occurred on other so-called news sites as well, not just BNet).

Regarding the issue of the Pine Sol ad and the comments of Mr. Edwards, Ms. Miller, and your own, I believe my reading comprehension is adequate to have understood that particular issue in that particular context. However, regarding other situations, statements, and attitudes about what is, or isn't, racist in the USA today, my views are simply derived from my own past experiences there, and the fact that I believe American culture remains racist, while admitting that changes have occurred in American society. Just the same, a society with a racist culture is bound to have a significant number of events, situations, and incidents in which that racist culture becomes realized in social interaction. I have read no written evidence during the past 13 years to indicate that the USA is a 'post-racial' society with a 'post-racist' culture. Thank you for your comments, and again please accept my apology if anything I have written offends you due to my own ignorance and insensitivity about matters of race and racism in the USA today.
Kind regards,
doug eaves, academic dean
gregg international college
principal, shinjuku campus
tokyo, japan